Being a Peacemaker Altered a Difficult Situation

Focusing on God's presence makes a tense situation become peaceful and friendly.

By Genelle Austin-Lett

Categories: Beatitudes, Loving and Forgiving

One summer I was asked to prepare a talk on the subject of peace. In all honesty, I didn't want to do it, but I said "Yes" before I said "No." I had spent a lot of time researching "peace" in the Bible and was particularly arrested by a translation of "peacemakers" as those individuals who practiced the presence of God.

It was 4th of July weekend in St. Louis. The temperatures were in the upper nineties and the heat index was registering 110+. Talk about hot and sticky – this just wasn't a fun time to be without an air conditioned bubble. A friend asked me if I would go to one of the celebrations on the Mississippi River with her. She was a vendor and didn't want to be there all day and night without someone to help her dismantle the booth. I agreed as long as I could find a shady place to study and write my talk.

When we arrived, the only shady places were under parked cars and in the trees. I found one isolated picnic table in the sun and sat down to work. As the day grew longer and hotter, other people wanted to lay claim to this table. In fact one rather large, rude and crude group of people sat down. They were having soda and beer fights that made me and my manuscript wet and sticky. They were using obscene language and x-rated gestures. This wasn't the place for a peace talk -- or was it? My anxiety softened when I realized we were all tenants in the kingdom of heaven. Then I realized God didn't see their course exterior: He only recognized their wheat. God doesn't operate on a class, intellectual, or ethnic basis whereby one group of His children is supposedly better than another. If I really wanted to practice the presence of God, now was the time.

I was naturally hot under the collar with the heat and I was determined not to lose the table. While I had no human desire to start a conversation with these people, I found the words "where are you from?" tumbling out of my mouth. They were as surprised to hear me address them as I was to hear my question. They told me they were from Arkansas. They had come to St. Louis to see the Independence Day fair, but no reasonably priced motels were available. This oversized group of people had slept the last three days in their cars. Not a pleasant experience in that heat. St. Louis doesn't cool off that much at night in the summer. I told them where they could find free showers. They left in shifts and each group returned smelling fresh and wearing clean clothes. They quit swearing and drinking beer. We had a pleasant four hours together eating dinner, sharing stories, and watching the fireworks. After the pyrotechnic grand finale, they offered to help with the dismantling of my friend's booth and carried our boxes to the car. They wanted to be certain we were safe.

We all experienced transformation when I willingly practiced the presence of God – to be a peace maker. The song, "Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me," took on new significance after this experience. Peace always begins within!